An Artist Who ‘Paints’ With Nature

Craig Forget is allied with the environment
Artisans Arch (1)

Photos courtesy of Craig Forget

Craig Forget’s artwork is cut from history. The wood he uses dates as far back as 200 years.

Each carefully selected fragment once held up a roof or supported a fence. Each piece withstood the elements until it could be salvaged and given new life by the Canadian artist’s keen eye.

Artisans Gradient

Craig Forget builds his sculptures entirely with reclaimed wood. The longer the wood sits outside, the darker it gets. Occasional moss or lichen provides shades of green.

When starting a new piece, Forget doesn’t draw a pattern—that would be too restrictive. “I let the wood navigate me,” he says. “I can’t back up the tracks once I’ve started.” The result speaks for itself: his artwork is organic, not only visually, but literally.

Artisans Maps

Forget’s cityscapes are among his more complex sculptures. Recently, he built a representation of Kansas City’s skyline, commissioned for a new navy ship named after the city.

It takes a staggering amount of knowledge, earned over a lifetime of experience, to work this way. For example, Forget knows that old horse fences were made of hardwood, especially white oak. He knows the only place in Ontario you can find elm is in old barns because of the disease Dutch elm. The rarest wood can only be found on south- or west-facing sides of barns, which get the most sun. The wood is red because farmers used an old iron-oxide paint that fades into the silver-gray wood in a particular way. “It’s just how the wood weathers,” says Forget. “Perfect for fiery sunsets.”

Artisans Deer

“The geometric sculptures are a one-time shot,” says Forget. “Once I glue the pieces on, they’re permanently there.

He owes much of this knowledge to a prior career as a finish carpenter. He put construction aside in 2010 due to an injury, and turned to artwork. After a brief foray into furniture making, he developed his “pallet art,” pieces made from vertical strips of wood and oriented so their ends were uneven. They were his first success—and the seed that sprouted into his work today. A friend showed him, and within a year he was living off of his artwork.

Artisans Work

Forget works from his woodshop, which he designed and organized to fit his process. The walls are decorated with his collection of antique farm tools

Forget’s process starts with selecting the wood. Next, he cuts the wood to size with a table saw and arranges the pieces on a frame. He secures the wood with carpenter glue, keeping boards in place with 23-gauge micro pins from a nail-gun while the glue sets. Finally, he applies a water-based sealant to protect the wood. This step alters the color of the wood slightly—and every type of wood reacts differently, so he has to predict how each element will change. The final step is to sand the piece once it dries, and then ship it to the client.

Artisans Branch

To acquire the raw materials, the barn or building often needs to be disassembled first. “There are people that dismantle them for a living, so usually I buy the wood from them,” says Forget. “But sometimes I’ll dismantle the barn myself.”

Every step of this process is as environmentally friendly as Forget can make it. From reclaiming the wood, to using low-VOC sealant, to the shipping materials, his studio adds practically no weekly trash or recycling to his household. From beginning to end, down to the last splinter, this is truly a “green” practice. He doesn’t even use paint: “Mother nature paints for me,” says Forget.

Categories: Artists & Artisans